Core-Strengthening Practices – Introduction & Overview


On Yoga Teacher Central, we cover the Core from three different perspectives.

  • Anatomy of the Core — includes defining and finding the core muscles, and verbiage and themes related to teaching about the core
  • Asana Category: Core Strengthening — includes benefits and cautions of core strengthening; cueing for core engagement, and sequencing considerations
  • Core-Strengthening Practices (the section you are in now) — listing of asana and related exercises for core strengthening

While many traditional asanas develop or require core strength, in this section we bring together asana variations and other exercises that are particularly core-focused. We have organized them by these categories:

  • Pelvic Tilts & Opposite Limb Extension
  • Sit-Ups & Leg Lifts
  • Plank & Related Poses
  • Navasana & Standing Poses
  • Backbends
  • More (Twists, Arm Balances, Pranayama)

Many Asanas Require & Build Core Strength & Stability

Abdominal Strength and Stability

Just about all yoga asanas, from standing postures to twists to inversions to balancing poses, require and build abdominal strength and stability… For example, lifting and lowering the legs in inverted poses like Headstand, Handstand, and Shoulderstand gives abs a serious workout. In seated twists, the oblique muscles (located along the sides of the abdomen) work as they lift and rotate the torso. Standing postures such as Triangle Pose and Warrior 2 also work the obliques as well as the deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominis, as they help stabilize the torso and spine. Folding postures, in which the thighs and chest are drawn toward each other, including many arm balances and all sorts of sit-up-like movements, target the most visible belly muscle, the rectus abdominis—the featured player in that washboard look you see in fitness magazines. – Alisa Bauman, Yoga Journal, How Yoga Works Your Core

Messy, Messy Naming

Chakravakasana, Cakravakasana, Sunbird, Sunbird Flow, Ruddy Goose
  • First area to note: the potential confusion related to the spelling of “Cakravakasana (Ruddy Goose) and “Chakravakasana (Sunbird).
  • These usually refer to two different poses but some sources will mis-spell the name, causing even more confusion.
  • Chakravakasana is used by some sources to refer to Opposite Limb Extension, and by some to refer to a flow that begins standing on the knees.
  • Cakravakasana (Ruddy Goose flow) is a flow from Table Pose to Extended Child’s Pose.
  • Chakravakasana (Sunbird flow) is a flow from knees to Extended Child’s Pose, then to Balancing Table, Extended Child’s and back to knees.

Related Topics

See Asana Category: Core Strengthening for answers to these questions:

  • What is the difference between a Sit-up and a Crunch?
  • What muscles are targeted in Crunches? What is the role of these muscles?
  • Crunches flex the trunk; why is this not optimum for most people?
  • What is meant by stabilizers and prime movers?

From my observations around my gym it looks like abdominal crunches are on their way out, which is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that you should never do them, it just means that you shouldn’t do them exclusively. – Olga Kabel, SequenceWiz, Core players: the muscles that move your trunk and how to work them

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